IT has now been more than a week since pubs across Dorset opened up their gardens and outside spaces for customers, following what has seemed like an eternity for many.

The prospect of an indoors pint may still be a few weeks away but that hasn't stopped thousands across the county, donning their hats and coats – for what was has been an unseasonally cold few April days – and heading off for an al fresco drink and pub meal.

On April 12 pub gardens were full of life again, albeit in a slightly socially-distanced 'toned down' Covid secure manner.

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his four-step 'roadmap' out of lockdown earlier in the year, pubs and bars across towns like Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole have been inundated with bookings.

But how has the first week back gone?

PUB manager Joanne Burton, of the Westbourne, Poole Road, Bournemouth, told the Daily Echo: "It has been really good, a lot busier than we thought it would be.

"We've had people not turn up, but then we've had people walk in – there are plenty of tables for everybody."

Bournemouth Echo: The Westbourne Pub

But this isn't the case everywhere, with walk-in customers elsewhere failing to find any tables available, such is the demand.

Dorset resident Peter Lewis spent the best part of two hours on Sunday, trawling around the pubs that have been able to reopen – but to no avail.

"On the one hand I'm really happy the pubs were all doing so well, they need to catch a break as hospitality has been dealt a hammer blow by these lockdowns. But on the other hand, I really, really fancied a pint.

"After trying three pubs we settled for a glass of beer on our balcony at home.

"I don't think it being the last day of half-term helped our chances of a table to be honest?"

At some pubs, Bournemouth's Moon in the Square being one of them, booking systems are not being operated.

Bournemouth Echo:

Read more: Moon in the Square, Lord Wimborne and The Quay among those opening

Wetherspoon pubs with outside spaces, which also includes The Lord Wimborne in Poole's Lagland Street; The Quay, Poole; and the Blackwater Stream, Lower Blandford Road, Broadstone, are being operated on a first come, first served basis.

But the message elsewhere is don't give up all hope of a table, even if booking slots have all gone.

At The Westbourne, a Greene King pub, some tables are becoming free throughout the day.

Manager Joanne said: "You always have the option of just coming along, and if there is a table available we will do our best to give it to you for a couple of hours."

On being finally back in business after this latest lockdown, Joanne said: "We are just happy to be back at work.

"It is more difficult with track and trace, making sure everyone checks in, making sure everyone is sat down at their tables. But we are just happy to be back at work and we cannot wait until May 17th when we open up inside as well.

"Hopefully we will be back to normal soon, when people can come to the pub just as and when they would like to."

Bournemouth Echo:

Asked how the Westbourne's customers are taking to these latest regulations, she said: "Most people have been OK, to be fair most people are just fed up of being locked in for such a long time.

"They are happy to be out and are abiding by the rules at the moment.

"Everyone seems to be behaving themselves."

So let us remind ourselves of the rules

CUSTOMERS no longer need to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks, and there is no 10pm curfew. But there are still Covid measures in place:

Bournemouth Echo: New technology runs hand in hand with pubs reopening

• Customers must order, eat and drink while seated at a table

• They must follow the rule of six, or be in a group of any size from two households only

• Every customer aged 16 and over must check in with NHS test and trace, or provide contact details

• When not seated - for example being shown to a table, or going to the toilet - customers must wear face masks (unless exempt) and observe social distancing

At The Woolpack Inn, Sopley, near Christchurch, it has also been an extremely busy week.

Bournemouth Echo: Teela Liberty-Spark and her partner Di Hankin, left, who are landlords of The Woolpack Inn at Sopley

Co-owner Teela Liberty-Spark, pictured above, told the Echo: "We are lucky because we have lots of outside area, at the front and in the garden.

"People are coming out, I think they like being outside because of Covid - it is nice and airy.

"We are finding the evenings very cold though."

Teela also said that one effect of the new regulations is that customer service is taking up a lot more resources

"Because it is all outside and table service, it is a lot more work for the staff. Staffing costs have gone up incredibly – we are advertising for more staff because it is so busy.

"We have a new QR code and a lot of people don't have iphones, so we have to take orders at tables.

"There are different generations that are not great with technology.

"We were expecting this week, with kids back at school and end of the Easter holidays, it would quieten down - but we have been so busy the past couple of days."

At The Woolpack they are not taking bookings.

Teela explained: "Everyone wants 1pm, so that means we have no-one on our tables from 12pm. This way does work, we haven't run out of tables yet.

"It seems to work for us.

"If we'd have taken all the people that wanted to book, I would have been saying 'I'm sorry, we are fully booked' to everyone. But it was raining and only eight people turned up. An hour later, when the sun came out, there was lots of people coming in.

"It is first come, first served."